Excellence Begins With Me

Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

Excellence Begins with Me is a video series that highlights the people, programs and services that positively impact the Tempe Elementary School District. 

“It is our mission to recognize the excellence that is on display each and every day in the Tempe Elementary community,” said Superintendent Chris Busch. ”I am proud to showcase these extraordinary people who commit themselves to the highest levels of excellence.” 

A new video is produced for the second Governing Board meeting each month. 

Excellence Begins With Desert Choice Schools
Excellence Begins With Jeff Homstad
Excellence Begins With Claudia Becho
Excellence Begins With Jan Olis
Excellence Begins With Fuller Elementary – National Blue Ribbon Award Recipient
Excellence Begins With Outstanding New Teachers
Excellence Begins With Scott Nasser
Excellence Begins With Studio Artists
Excellence Begins With Erik Whitehill
Excellence Begins With Take 2
Excellence Begins With Assistance League East Valley
Excellence Begins With Joe Spracale
Excellence Begins With Our A Schools
Excellence Begins With Pamela Vega-Rios
Excellence Begins With Children's Dental Village
Excellence Begins With Experience Corps
Excellence Begins With Graciela Jauregui
Excellence Begins With Hudson Flex Rooms
Excellence Begins With Nathan Maruca
Excellence Begins With Connolly Symphonic Band
Excellence Begins With Nevitt Elementary School


Excellence Begins With Desert Choice Schools


This video highlights the incredible passion, commitment, and excellence that is the partnership between Desert Choice Schools and Tempe Elementary.

TD3 partnered with DCS nearly two years ago to meet the challenging behaviors of students on our campuses in order for them to be successful both academically and socially. 

Through a highly structured Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports system along with scientifically based instructional programs, Desert Choice Schools programs are designed to teach personal responsibility and social skills while maintaining a strong academic focus. Students at DCS become advocates for their own learning. They are taught new ways of thinking that help them navigate positively through problems they encounter. They are also challenged academically. 

Because of this, Desert Choice Schools is the latest recipient of the Excellence Begins With Me award recognition.


Excellence Begins With Jeff Homstad

This video celebrates the excellence that is Jeff Homstad. On his employee badge, it says Jeff is a project manager for FMFL, but he is much more than that. If you go throughout TD3 and you talk to teachers, administrators, principals, bus drivers — it doesn’t matter who it is — everybody knows Jeff and everybody knows that he’s the go-to person when you need something done or if you have an emergency in the middle of the night — Jeff’s your guy because he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make Tempe Elementary schools a better place to learn for our children and a better place to work for our employees.

What truly defines Jeff Homstad and the work he performs is his passion for excellence in everything he does. Whether he’s working on the design of a new school building or just performing a simple repair, Jeff brings the same passion, the same caring, the same level of excellence to each and every job he does, each and every day.      

What’s so amazing about Jeff in all the work he performs is he’s always trying to make the learning environment better for children and teachers. And he does it with such respect, so mindful of trying never to interrupt the educational process of student and teachers in schools. He truly loves TD3. He truly loves his job. And it shows in everything he does.

Quite simply, excellence is Jeff Homstad and he deserves the Excellence Begins With Me recognition.


Excellence Begins With Claudia Becho

There are teachers who never see obstacles, only possibilities. They don’t see difficulties in students, only potential. And they aren’t satisfied with the status quo; they constantly look to improve their instructional practices so learning is more engaging, more relevant, and more successful for ALL students. These are the traits that define teachers of excellence — teachers like Gililland’s Claudia Becho.

Claudia is willing to step up and help, no matter how difficult the task may be, no matter what kind of time commitment it might put on her.  To Claudia, every single student, whether in her class or not, is one of HER students. 

Claudia goes above and beyond in everything she does — both in and out of the classroom. She currently teaches four different classes and, most impressively, has written the curriculum for ALL four classes. She is constantly introducing new ideas and concepts for students to explore — bringing the world around them into the classroom through innovation and creativity. 

Quite simply, excellence is Claudia Becho.

Back to top


Excellence Begins With Jan Olis

We have incredible teachers throughout TD3: instructors who dedicate their lives to educating Tempe Elementary students; teachers who will stop at nothing to see students succeed; teachers who practice excellence in everything they do — teachers like Carminati Elementary’s Jan Olis.

As the campus SMIALS teacher, Jan’s students are everything to her, and she puts her heart and soul into every minute with them. Students love her. Parents love her. Her colleagues love her. But her efforts don’t just stop with her own students — Jan is always willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to help every Carminati student. As Principal Wendy Reeck put it, “Jan is one of my runners. She is out ahead of everyone else, paving the way for kids. She is humble, kind, dedicated, incredibly knowledgeable and sometimes doesn’t even understand the gifts that she has to give, and does give, to all of us on a regular basis.”

Jan is truly an inspiration for her colleagues at Carminati, for all employees in TD3, and for teachers everywhere. She defines the passion and commitment of teaching that our students need and deserve each and every day. Quite simply, excellence is Jan Olis.

Back to top



Excellence Begins with Fuller Elementary School – National Blue Ribbon Award Recipient 


Fuller Elementary School was recently recognized as one of only four Arizona schools to receive the 2016 National Blue Ribbon Award by the United States Department of Education. From the exceptional leaders to the incredible students to the wonderful teachers and staff to the supportive families and community — the National Blue Ribbon Award recognizes the hard work and dedicated efforts they do day in and day out all year long to produce continuous achievement and high standards for ALL Fuller students.  

Trust, passion, family, community — these are words used repeatedly throughout the Fuller Elementary School community to describe their school. From the moment you walk in the door at Fuller, you can feel the warmth, the energy, the sense of purpose that makes this school so special. This Excellence Begins With Me video recognition celebrates Fuller Elementary School being named a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School.

“Congratulations!” to the entire Fuller Elementary community for being named a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School!

Back to top

Excellence Begins with Outstanding New Teachers


We have an incredible group of veteran teachers throughout the Tempe Elementary School District, instructors who have dedicated their lives to educating our students, introducing new ideas and concepts for children to explore, and bringing the world around them alive through innovation and creativity.

But where would the profession of teaching be without new teachers? And not just new teachers, but outstanding new teachers! In a time when the teaching profession both locally and nationally is facing a teacher shortage, we are celebrating here in TD3 with a truly amazing new group of teachers — teachers filled with endless energy, passion, dedication and a never-ending desire to truly change the world for our Tempe Elementary students.

This Excellence Begins With Me video celebrates this outstanding new group of TD3 teachers through the thoughts and feelings of six exceptional new teachers.

Back to top

Excellence Begins with Scott Nasser


In May 2015, Gililland Middle School Science Teacher Scott Nasser won the Tempe Diablos Excellence in Education Award for Inspiration. This award is given to an individual who inspires and motivates through the giving of their time, talent, and skills that support student learning.

When Scott Nasser won the Inspiration Award in May 2015, he took home a plaque and $1,000 to spend however he pleased. Nasser could have bought something nice for himself or paid off some bills, but he decided to pay it forward instead. He wanted to teach that concept to his National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) students by using that money on a community service project. They fixed up a neighborhood yard near the school. Nasser purchased gravel for the project and has spent a few Saturdays working on it along with the NJHS students and a few other teachers.

Scott Nasser is truly an example of Excellence and the powerful impact of "paying it forward."

Back to top

Excellence Begins with Studio Artists

In this video, we celebrate the incredible work six professional artists perform in TD3 classrooms throughout the year to teach, explore, and inspire the creative side of our students.

The Studio Artists Program is a partnership between TD3 and the City of Tempe and is primarily funded for the next five years through the incredible generosity of our good neighbor — State Farm. In the program, TD3 third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders get an opportunity to experience professional-quality art instruction, while TD3 provides work and studio space at Wood and Nevitt elementary schools for the artists. In watching this video, you will see firsthand the passion, commitment, and excellence that is the Studio Artists Program.

Albert Einstein once said, “Creativity is contagious, pass it on.” We are so thankful to artists Sue Norton-Scott, Lauren Lee, Melanie Sainz, Shari Keith, George Heslop, and Such Styles for “passing it on” to TD3 students. Their commitment to art education here in TD3 does not go unnoticed and is so greatly appreciated.

Back to top

Excellence Begins with Erik Whitehill

We have incredible teachers throughout TD3, instructors who dedicate their lives to educating Tempe Elementary students, introducing new ideas and concepts for children to explore, and bringing the world around them alive through innovation and creativity. These are passionate educators who spend untold hours before and after the school bell to make sure every student has an exceptional learning experience in a Tempe Elementary classroom.

Fuller Music Teacher Erik Whitehill is a perfect example of one of these passionate educators in TD3. Students love him. Parents love him. His colleagues love him. Erik is always willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. Whether it’s part of his job or not, Erik is always willing to lend a helping hand in anything that is Fuller, community or music. Quite simply, excellence is Erik Whitehill.

Erik does many amazing things outside of his classroom. For the past 20 years, he has been a composer of music — he not only writes music for his students at Fuller, but he also writes for the honor choir in our District as well as composing for different churches. He’s a playwright. He has had choral music and musicals published and nationally distributed. And on top of all that (and teaching), he still finds time to help out at a senior center. As you can see, excellence truly begins with Erik Whitehill.

Back to top

Excellence Begins with Take 2

Thanks to multiple studies and observation projects, Nutrition Services found large amounts of waste. The Take 2 Program was created by our Nutrition Services Department to remind our students to “take two” fruits and/or vegetables at lunch. By redesigning and refining everything from the type of food, serving size, informational campaign and re-educating kitchen personnel, the impact of Take 2 was immediate — less waste, better cost control, and most importantly, our students were benefiting from eating more foods that are even better nutritionally for them. Brightly colored magnets displaying the images and words of the fruits and vegetables offered that day are put up on a farmer’s market style “Produce Patch” sign located in the serving line. Cafeteria staff also encourage students to “Take 2” as they choose their meals. This video recognizes our Nutrition Services Department and the many employees in our kitchens throughout TD3 who show that excellence can also be nutritional.

Back to top

Excellence Begins with the Assistance League of the East Valley


The Assistance League of the East Valley has been working with the Tempe Elementary School District for over 20 years. During those 20 years, Assistance League East Valley members have put in more than 500,000 volunteer hours supporting the Tempe Elementary School District and its families. Thanks to one of the best thrift shops in Arizona, Assistance League East Valley generates money that helps fund their signature program — Operation School Bell — and provides clothing and school uniforms to our students so they can look and feel just like the rest of their classmates.

This video recognizes the many volunteers of the Assistance League East Valley for their tireless and dedicated service to Tempe Elementary. In it, you will see why the Assistance League East Valley is truly a gift to the entire Tempe Elementary community.

Back to top

Excellence Begins with Joe Spracale


Joe Spracale is a long-time Tempe resident, a product of the Tempe Elementary School District himself, and a former teacher and administrator in the Tempe District.

He is a face recognized by many in Tempe, greeted everywhere he goes. Always wearing a big smile, he is a dedicated, compassionate man with a heart of gold. He cares deeply about the children of Tempe and specifically those in the Tempe Elementary School District.

Joe, himself, defines excellence with one word – caring. "Care about yourself. Care about your friends. Care about your family. Care about your grades. Care about everything you do, and excellence will follow." These are the very words that Spracale models himself, every single day, in everything he does.

For these reasons, and more, watch this video and see why Excellence Begins With Joe Spracale.

Back to top

Excellence Begins with Our A Schools


Fuller Elementary, Nevitt Elementary, Tempe Academy of International Studies, and Ward Traditional Academy have all earned an “A” in 2014.

The principals of these schools have some things in common that have made a difference for their schools: They all have passion and are dedicated to their children; They are positive role models; They believe all students can achieve; and they believe in that their staff can succeed.

In this Excellence Begins With Me video, Tempe Elementary Schools celebrates our A schools.

Back to top

Excellence Begins with Pamela Vega-Rios

This Excellence Begins With Me video celebrates a very special young lady, a Gililland Middle School student who knows no boundaries to her learning. Pamela Vega-Rios, although hearing impaired, is determined to make the most of her education, whether academically in the classroom, musically in orchestra, or socially as a cheerleader. She always puts 100 percent into everything that she does — she is constantly pushing herself to improve. It is obvious to everyone around her that Pamela refuses to let her hearing impairment hold her back — she’s determined to not only be the best student she can be but also the best person. In a few weeks, she will be honored at the City of Tempe’s YouthFest 2014 with the Courage to Overcome Award. Pamela is truly an inspiration to others! 

Back to top



Excellence Begins with Children's Dental Village


The Tempe Elementary School District is so fortunate to have individuals and businesses in the community who not only see a need, but also then willingly use their talents and resources to fill those needs — businesses like Children’s Dental Village.

For more than 20 years, Children’s Dental Village has opened its doors a couple times a year to Tempe Elementary students and their siblings to take care of children’s urgent and preventive dental needs — all for free. All of Children’s Dental Village employees — doctors, dental assistants and front office staff — volunteer their time on these special days.

In this Excellence Begins With Me video, Tempe Elementary Schools celebrates the volunteer spirit that turns a child’s painful frown into a beautiful, happy smile.

Back to top

Excellence Begins with Experience Corps

In 2006, an exciting program was launched in TD3, a program where adults aged 50 and older work with first-, second- and third-grade students one-on-one or in small groups to improve their literacy skills and self-confidence.

The tutors are community members who have expressed an interest and willingness to make a difference in our children’s lives. Since the program began, tutors have logged more than 35,000 hours helping more than 2,000 children in nine Tempe Elementary School District schools.

This Excellence Begins With Me video celebrates this wonderful program – AARP Experience Corps Tempe – and the 78 incredible volunteers who truly make a difference for our children.

Back to top

Excellence Begins with Graciela Jauregui

This video celebrates the passion, dedication and commitment of Getz Preschool Teacher Graciela Jauregui, who recently received the Chicanos Por La Causa Esperanza Latino Teacher Award. Jauregui teaches two preschool classes with 11 children with special needs and five typical peers in both morning and afternoon sessions. Her student data from 2012-2013 exceeded expectations in all five developmental areas tested – social, physical, language, cognitive and literacy – affirming that the learning that happens each day in her classroom is phenomenal.

Watch and see why excellence truly begins with Graciela Jaurequi.

Back to top

Excellence Begins with Hudson Flex Rooms


For the past three years, Hudson Elementary School has earned an “A” letter grade from the Arizona Department of Education — and the leaders and educators associated with Hudson say their “Flex Room” and Its instructional assistants are two of the main reasons for the school’s academic success.

Hudson’s “Flex Room” was created four years ago as a place full of resources, where students come to learn in small groups. Before the creation of the “Flex Room,” instructional assistants would visit students in their classrooms

At the time the “Flex Room” was created, instructional assistants became truly imbedded into the collaborative decision-making team for each of their students. The instructional assistants attend weekly grade-level team meetings and meet regularly with teachers to discuss the progress of the students they work with each day. This change has left quite an impression on learning at Hudson.

Back to top

Excellence Begins with Nathan Maruca


This video celebrates Tempe Elementary’s latest award-winning teacher, Aguilar fifth-grade teacher and Rodel Exemplary Teacher Nathan Maruca.

Nathan was one of 11 Arizona teachers selected in December 2013 by Rodel based on outstanding student achievement in his classroom and a dedicated and committed effort to mentor new teachers.

In this video, you will see and hear why excellence and Nathan Maruca go hand-in-hand. Demonstrating a true passion for teaching along with a dedicated commitment to helping other teachers excel in the classroom is why Aguilar’s Nathan Maruca was honored as an “Excellence Begins With Me” award recipient.

Back to top

Excellence Begins with Connolly Symphonic Band


The Connolly Symphonic Band, under the direction of teachers’ Philip Lemar and Dennis Smith, was one of just two Arizona middle or high schools to be selected through audition tapes — and the only middle school — to perform live before all of Arizona’s music educators at the Arizona Music Educators Conference last February in Mesa. To earn a performance spot in front of such a critical audience is a long and challenging process — it’s also one of the highest honors an Arizona music educator and their musical ensemble can possibly receive. In this video, you will see and hear how this incredible group of musicians and their remarkable teachers have created a new tone of excellence for TD3 musicians.

Back to top

Excellence Begins with Nevitt Elementary School


This video celebrates the hard work and dedication that earned Nevitt Elementary School an “A,” the state’s highest academic honor. Just five years ago, Nevitt’s academic performance was measured in the lower 25% of all district schools by a number of district and state assessments. Today….

  1. 82% of Nevitt’s 3rd, 4th and 5th graders met or exceeded on the reading portion of AIMS. To begin this school year, 21% more first graders are at benchmark in reading then 5 years prior, a jump from 63 to 84%.
  2. In 2010, 46% of 3rd graders met or exceeded on the AIMS Math test. In 2013, that percentage grew to 77%. Just as impressive was the increase in the number of 3rd grade students who exceeded on the AIMS math test — from 10% in 2010 to 27% in 2013.
  3. From 2011 to 2013, Nevitt grew 25 total points in the state’s formula for awarding letter grades — the highest three-year increase by any Tempe Elementary school.

As you will see and hear in this video, learning for all, whatever it takes, along with a work ethic second to none has transformed a school…and a community.

Back to top